What the EU should do to end state terror in Belarus
True to his image as Europe's last dictator, Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko has just added two more crimes to a long list of repressions against his own people.
Most tragically, he denied pardon to two young men convicted in a rigged trial for a metro bombing in the capital Minsk and had them executed last week despite domestic and international protests. Belarus remains the only country in Europe that still carries out the death penalty - a particularly frightening prospect in a country with a terrible human rights record.
Lukashenko has also drawn up a list of Belarusian democrats who are barred from traveling abroad, effectively taking hostage some 150 opposition leaders, human rights activists, and independent journalists.
Belarus' first post-Soviet leader, Stanislau Shushkevich, was prevented from leaving the country this past weekend after authorities removed him from a train bound for Lithuania. This travel ban runs counter to Belarusian law which denies exit only to debtors, draft dodgers, and criminal suspects.
Both moves came in retaliation for Europe's recent extension of sanctions against the Belarusian regime. Earlier, Lukashenko expelled the ambassadors of Poland and the European Union.
Ostensibly designed to show he remains in firm control, these moves instead reveal a leader increasingly unstable and dangerous. For the EU, which borders Belarus, the response should be more and tougher sanctions against Lukashenko, not an easing of pressure, to speed up the demise of his regime.
His autocratic rule only functions if ordinary people are intimidated, if those speaking out in favor of democratic change are silenced and if his own repressive apparatus remains loyal to him.